Ilya Kovalchuk is on a career-saving run with the Montreal Canadiens after a rough stint in Los Angeles. In 15 games with the Habs, Kovy has registered 12 points including 6 goals, including the game-winner in overtime on Saturday night versus the Leafs. The Canadiens acquired Kovalchuk for next to nothing, only paying him 700k for this season. GM Marc Bergevin, recently said that the Canadiens would accept nothing less than a 2nd round pick from a contending team looking to acquire Kovalchuk’s services at the rapidly approaching trade deadline.
We’ve noticed an intense debate occurring on Twitter regarding what the Habs should do with Kovalchuk. Do they keep him for an unlikely playoff push, or do they trade him for an asset that they basically got for free? Either way, Bergevin’s gamble paid off, as Kovalchuk has become one of the more exciting players on the team to watch and he is coming through in big moments when the team needs it most. We wanted to chime in on this debate and provide our thoughts as to what the Canadiens should do in this good situation.
First, some statistics. Kovalchuk has never registered a positive AB season over the seven years of data we have on him. In fact, his career score is -2.53, and he is coming off his worst score since 2010-2011 last season with a -5.24 score. Now at 36 years of age, Kovy’s main responsibility is to be a leader in the locker room and continue to contribute on offense. This he has done and has done well in Montreal. He hasn’t taken a penalty yet with the Habs in 15 games, and he has drawn 3 on his own in that span as well. Kovalchuk is also among the leaders on Montreal in +/- as he is +6 with the team (-10 in LA so -4 overall this season).
We would suggest Montreal trade Kovalchuk while his value is at its peak. They likely aren’t going to make the playoffs this season, and if a fringe playoff team is willing to give up a 2nd round pick for Kovalchuk we would take that in a heartbeat. We say this not because we think Kovalchuk is a bad player or that his amazing streak is a fluke, but because the Canadiens aren’t going anywhere, and it would be poor asset management in our opinion not to deal him. Remember, Bergevin and his team got Kovalchuk for nothing, and if they are truly in a position to gain a 2nd round pick from their gamble, Bergevin looks like a genius and the team gets essentially a free Top 62 pick in what is said to be the most loaded draft class in recent memory. For us, this is a no-brainer, however, there are tons of Canadiens fans and reporters encouraging them to keep Kovalchuk and try and go on that improbable run. Montreal is currently 6 points back of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and 5 points back on their division rival Maple Leafs for 3rd in the Atlantic despite having played 1-2 more games than their competition. They have been playing well as of late with a 7-3 record in their last 10. We will see what they decide to do on Kovalchuk, and it will be an interesting time in Montreal as the trade deadline is quickly approaching. More to come.